A Maltster in the Scotch whisky industry is responsible for overseeing the production and harvesting of barley, the main ingredient in the production of malt whisky. It is often produced using traditional methods. The malt is made from barley that has been allowed to germinate and then dried, which triggers the release of enzymes that convert the barley's starch into fermentable sugars.
Maltsters are highly skilled professionals, and their expertise is critical to the success of the Scotch whisky industry. A good Maltster can make a significant difference in the quality and flavour of the malt, and ultimately, the whisky itself.
Main duties and responsibilities
The Maltster's role involves managing the process of malting barley, which includes the following:
- Selecting the highest quality barley for use in malting. Identifying the specific varieties of barley that are best suited for malting and ensuring that the barley is free from contaminants.
- Adjusting, adapting and nurturing the barley that’s available to ensure the intake in stock for production is capable of producing quality malt year-on-year.
- Planning the distilleries future barley requirements and scheduling the transport and allocation of storage for barley pre-harvest and post-harvest. Working to supply malt and raw materials to the bagging hall and roast house and GKV's (Germinating Kilning Vessels).
- Overseeing the malting process from start to finish which includes steeping, the barley in water, germinating the barley, and drying it in a kiln. The Maltster must ensure that the malt is dried to the correct moisture level, as this will impact the flavour and aroma of the final product.
- Maintaining strict quality control standards throughout the malting process to achieve zero rejections and zero issues on drying and screening. This includes monitoring the temperature and humidity levels in the kiln, checking the moisture content of the malt, and conducting taste tests to ensure that the malt has the desired flavour profile.
- Maintaining detailed records of each batch of malt produced. This includes information about the barley variety, the malting process, and the quality control measures that were taken.
- Ensuring all equipment used in the malting process is properly maintained and in good working condition. This includes cleaning and sanitizing equipment after each use.
- Collaborating closely with other members of the production team, including distillers and blenders, to ensure that the malt is of the highest quality and meets the specific requirements of each batch of whisky.
Skills and experience
To be a successful Maltster you must have a deep understanding of the malting process and possess excellent organisational and communication skills. A degree in food science or a related field is preferred, although extensive experience in malting may be sufficient. In addition, you will need the following skills and experience:
- A deep understanding of the malting process, including the chemistry behind it, and the factors that can affect the quality of the malt.
- Maintain strict quality control standards and have an excellent palate to identify any deviations from the desired flavour profile.
- Excellent attention to detail to ensure that the malting process is performed correctly, and the malt is of the desired quality.
- Excellent analytical skills with the ability to analyse data, identify trends, and use this information to make improvements in the malting process.
- Ability to communicate effectively with other members of the production team, including distillers and blenders, to ensure that the malt meets the specific requirements of each batch of whisky.
- A good understanding of the equipment used in the malting process, including its maintenance and repair.
- A degree in food science or a related field is preferred, as this provides a good foundation of knowledge of the science behind food production. However, extensive experience in malting may also be sufficient.
- The Maltster's job involves a lot of physical labour, including moving heavy bags of barley, and working in hot, humid conditions. Being physically fit is important.
To become a Maltster in the Scotch whisky industry requires a combination of technical knowledge, practical experience, and excellent communication and analytical skills.
There are no specific educational qualifications required to become a Maltster in the Scotch whisky industry. However, having a degree in food science or a related field helps to understand the scientific principles behind the malting process. Some employers require a formal apprenticeship or certification in malt production.
The most important qualification for a Maltster is practical experience in malting. Many Maltsters begin their careers in entry-level positions in distilleries or malt houses, where they gain hands-on experience in the malting process. As they gain experience and knowledge, they may progress to more senior positions, such as Maltster.